Finding the Best Walkie Talkie

best walkie talkieSelecting the best walkie talkie for your needs is easier than you think.  There are just a few questions that must be answered.  Whether you are going hiking, skiing, to the amusement park or to the mall, a good set of walkie talkies can help to keep your party in touch.

I remember growing up (I know you are saying not another, “I remember when” story) I had the best walkie talkie set.  They had a 300 foot range, volume control, talk button and a squelch.  Well, the walkie talkies of today are nothing like those old models.  They have improved by leaps and bounds.  Instead of hundreds of feet of range, now they talk about miles.

So, finding the best walkie talkie set that will suit your needs what do you look for?

Types:

There are two basic types of two-way radios (walkie talkies) for general use:  Family Radio Service (FSR) and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS).  Based upon your needs depends on which type you need.

  • FSR: This radio has a few variations, but they all have a power output of 0.5 watts or less.  One of the variables is the number of channels available.  (more on the channels below)
  • GMRS: These radios are designed for businesses or commercial uses.  Their power output can go up to 50 watts.  These radios require a FCC license to operate.  You can purchase a family license good for 5 years for a nominal fee (in 2007, the fee was $85.00).  You do not have to have the license before purchasing a GMRS radio.
Warning: You must have a license to broadcast on channels 1 through 7 at more than half-a-watt and on channels 15 through 22 at any wattage level. If you are found in violation of these rules, the FCC can fine you up to $10,000 and/or put you in jail.”

Channels:  (500 cable channels and not a thing on)

There are 22 basic channels for the best walkie talkie types.  Here is the breakdown:

  • 1-7: These are used by both the FSR and the GMRS walkie talkies. (no license required if the radio is 0.5 watts or less)
  • 8-14: These are used by FSR only. (no license required)
  • 15-22: These are used for GMRS only. (license required for all transmissions on these channels)
  • 20: This channel is reserved for emergency communications only.


Range:

You will find on many of the two way radio packages that you can transmit up to 25 miles.  This may be true, but don’t count on it.  Range can vary greatly.  Here are some of the criteria for range:

You will have a better range if:

  • You are on top of a mountain and the person you are talking to is in a valley and there is an un-obstructed view.
  • You are in an urban environment and you are on the upper floors of a high rise building, out on a balcony.

You will have a worse range if:

  • You are deep inside a building with solid walls; steel or concrete.
  • You are low in a valley, in a tunnel or in a basement.
  • Your view is obstructed by a large object; building, mountain or thick woods.
  • There is thick fog, lightning or storms in the area.

FSR: You can expect up to a six mile range, with ideal conditions with these radios.  Because of the items above, expect less than two miles.

GMRS: Expect a maximum range of eight to twenty-five miles for one to two watt radios.  Again, this is under ideal conditions (your mileage may vary).

Finding a Clear Channel:

When you are in a location where a lot of people are using the best walkie talkie sets, like at a ski resort, the channels can fill up very quickly.  This can lead to a lot of noise.  The manufacturers have come up with two different systems to help eliminate the interference; Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System (CTCSS) and Continuous Digital Coded Squelch System (CDCSS).

What these systems do is create sub-channels for you to communicate on.  Let’s say you are on channel 3 and there is a lot of talk on that line.  You can turn the CTCSS to 5 and be on channel 3, code 5.  This sub-channel would get rid of a lot, although not necessarily all of the other traffic.  One note about this feature is that many manufacturers call this a “privacy” line, but know that it is not private and other people will still be able to hear your conversations.

Finally, the CTCSS are numbered 1 through 38 and are analog.  CDCSS start at number 39 and can go up to 121 or more.  All best walkie talkie brands will work on the CTCSS bands, but not all the brands are compatible for the CDCSS.

Options:

  • Two Way Radio and GPS: These are a great addition. Because of the GPS function, they are more expensive. One fantastic feature is the ability to broadcast the GPS location of the other radio to yours. The location of the other radio shows up on your GPS.
  • Weather Radio: There are best walkie talkie radios that include a NOAA weather receiver. To have this included in the two way radio helps keep you from carrying two different radios.

When purchasing new walkie talkies, it is best to buy them as a pair or two pair arrangements.  This will guarantee that they will work on all frequencies properly.

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